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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Diet!

My daughter, Alia, was very sick this weekend. In fact, I ended up taking her to the hospital, because she was having agonizing abdominal pain, she was extremely pale and lethargic, and she was very thirsty. It was very scary, because the doctors all thought she had appendicitis. Her pain was so severe, she had to have morphine...TWICE. My 4 year old! The only good part was that my ex-husband actually came through this time. He was there at the hospital the whole time, and he stayed with my other kids, so that I could be there when Alia had her extremely frightening and invasive tests. I think it really comforted her to have both of us there. When the tests came back negative, the doctors released her with a diagnosis of, "Non-specific gastritis/colitis."

Personally, I think her problem was that she was constipated. She has had a lot of problems with it in the past, and I thought it was a lot better, but I must've been wrong. I already talked to her, and I told her that from now on she has to follow a very high fiber diet with nothing in it that will clog her up. This is going to mean some real changes for her, because she can't have any dairy products, red meat, chicken, bananas, or refined grains. I used to put wheat germ in her yogurt to make it more healthful, but that was the wrong thing to put in there. I should have sprinkled the BRAN in there. Anyway, here's what I'm going to do.

This is of course, good for everyone, but I think it's going to take some getting used to! I'm going to have to amp mine up with flax and extra bran as well, which I'm sure will affect the taste and texture of what I make. I'm going to have to experiment a lot with different ratios of different grains. I'm sure we will all get used to it, though, and I'm hoping eating whole grains will positively impact the whole family.

I was letting her eat a LOT of yogurt, because a lot of times, she'd refuse to eat anything else! I thought it was healthy, but I think it really contributed to clogging her up so bad. I went to Publix yesterday, and luckily, they are having a BOGO sale on shredded wheat! I got 4 boxes for free (WIC) and last night, she ate shredded wheat with soymilk for dinner. I told her that from now on, if she doesn't want to eat dinner, she can have high fiber cereal, high fiber bread, dried fruit, or regular fruit instead, but NO YOGURT. She really took it better than I thought she would.

There are fiber "candies" that you can eat to supplement your diet, but I don't know if it's good to give them to small children who are already on a high fiber diet.

Beans and lentils have a lot of protein and fiber. Best of all, they are also frugal! There are a lot of recipes that use legumes instead of meat. I actually have a Middle Eastern cookbook that has a lot of awesome bean and lentil based recipes. I just need to start trying them! A lot of vegan cookbooks have good recipes featuring legumes as well.

Fish isn't generally constipating, unlike beef and chicken. The only bad part, is that fish is usually a lot more expensive! There are ways around the expense, though. Canned salmon is a great bet nutritionally, and it tastes pretty good! It's definitely not as tasty as fresh, but it definitely works in casseroles and on sandwiches. Canned tuna is also a good option. I'll post any good recipes I find!

It might be a little tough at first, but I think this new diet will be a positive change in the long run. For one thing, legumes are a lot more frugal, and less fattening than meat. Fish has great health benefits, along with not being constipating. I'm hoping this new diet will improve all of our health, especially poor Alia's.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weekly Menu Plan

This week I bought a lot of seafood at sams club, so it will be prominently featured in my menus.

Shepherds pie
Leftover Garlic bread
Leftover crisp

Baked fish
Crock pot baked potatoes
Roasted corn

Seafood gumbo
Wheat germ rolls
Apple, mango, blueberry crisp

Creamy chicken and rice casserole
Roasted carrots
Wheat germ rolls


(We're going to my kids' school for an event, so I'm packing a picnic!)
Zucchini muffins
Apple slices with peanut butter
Juice boxes
Homemade rolls with butter

Shrimp stir fry

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Crock Pot Baked Potatoes!

I had never cooked baked potatoes in the crock pot until today, now I sure do wish I had. It was so easy, and the potatoes turned out really good! My kids and I had them as a frugal main course for dinner last night. Here's how I baked them:

8 medium sized baking potatoes, scrubbed and pricked lightly with a fork
1tsp garlic salt, or just plain salt
1Tbsp oil

Place the potatoes on end in the crock pot. Sprinkle the salt over the tops, and then drizzle on the oil. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Enjoy with your favorite toppings!

It really is that easy...I can't believe I ever bothered with the oven! Potatoes are great, because they are filling, versatile, and best of all...CHEAP. I bought a 10 pound bag of potatoes from sams club for $2.05 this past week. That means each pound of potatoes cost me about $.20. Here are a few of the ways I like to use baked potatoes:

One of my favorite meals is a humble baked potato with butter, sour cream, and salt, a cucumber tomato salad, and some roasted carrots. You can use whatever toppings you want, like cheese, bacon bits, green onion, avocado, bits of leftover vegetables...The possibilities are pretty much endless. I love this meal, because it is filling without being heavy, low fat, and really very delicious!

There are so very many ways to use leftover baked potatoes in a soup! You can mash them up to thicken the soup, dice them up to add bulk, shred them to add texture without being too noticeable, etc. I like to add mashed potatoes to soup instead of using a more traditional flour/butter thickener. Potatoes have WAY less calories, they are more convenient (if already cooked, anyway), and they thicken soups and stews very effectively and with a great texture. Using potatoes as a thickener is also much healthier than using butter, or eggs.

There are a ton of awesome potato breads to be made with leftover baked potatoes. Potato breads are heavier than a lot of other breads, but they make up for it by being so delicious! Potato pasta is also really good, and a lot easier to make than regular semolina pasta. I will post recipes for potato bread and pasta soon.

Leftover potatoes can also be used in potato salad, shepherds pie, potato pancakes, fried potato cakes and even in crab cakes! Nothing will add frugal nutrition to your diet like potatoes.

So break out that crock pot and your vegetable brush and get cooking!

Valentines Day

I admit, I'm posting this kind of late.:P

Our Valentines Day was great this year! I thought it might not be, because my ex-husband claimed to be "working" and wouldn't come see his three little girls...And they really wanted to see him. I took them out to Panera for breakfast to cheer them up. My parents had sent me a $30 panera gift card, so we were able to get an awesome feast. After that, we went to Target to see if there was any holiday merchandise on sale (there wasn't), and then we went home and took a walk to see the last of the snow!

Later that afternoon we went to see, "The Princess and the Frog" at the $1.99 theatre. After that came the best part of the day! We went to the gourmet Chinese buffet in town! It was great fun, because we hadn't gone out for dinner in months. I'm sorry to say, I think I ate about three times my weight.:P

That night, we were so stuffed, we just kind of laid around and watched, "Little Women." I had bought it at Goodwill earlier in the week. The girls loved it. That was the end of our Valentines Day. The kids only asked about their dad a few times. It's sad, but a good thing that they have been asking for him less and less. It wasn't the future I imagined when I first got married and started having kids, but in the immortal words of Mick Jagger, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need."

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I live in Georgia, which is why I consider snow to be amazing! Yesterday afternoon, it started snowing at around 2:00. By about 6:00 there were about 5 inches of snow on the ground! The trees, houses, bushes, yards...Everything is just covered in a white blanket of snow. I swear my neighborhood looks like a New England winter photograph right now! My kids have been so excited. They had never seen snow on the ground before. We went outside and played in it all day yesterday, came inside to warm up and eat dinner, and then we went back out to play in it at night! I was very tired by about 9:00, from carrying firewood and chasing after my kids.:P

The amazing snowfall is still here this morning, so I think we're in for another long day of playing in it! The bad part is, the roads are all covered in ice, so no one can drive on them! We're pretty much stuck in the house until the snow and ice melt. I'm so glad my "Food Bank Account" is stocked up, because I don't know how long it will be until we can go to the store! Luckily, I bought two new movies at Goodwill, and a 20Lb bag of popping corn at Sams Club. One of the movies I got is called, "The Day After Tomorrow." I think it's about an ice age...Which seems pretty appropriate!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Apple Mango Cranberry Crisp Recipe!

One of my readers asked me to post my fruit crisp recipe, so here it is!

6C fruit, cut into bite sized pieces
1Tbsp corn starch
1Tbsp lemon juice
1/3C sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Make sure all traces of cornstarch have disappeared.

1 1/2C flour
1C rolled oats
1/4C granulated sugar
1/4C brown sugar
8Tbsp butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Place all ingredients except butter in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 2 or 3 times. Add the butter and pulse until butter is Incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. Place the fruit mixture in a greased 9X13 pan. Sprinkle half of the topping over the fruit mixture. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle on the remaining topping. Return the crisp to the oven and bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is juicy and bubbly, and the topping is browned. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10-15 minutes. ENJOY.

Baking half of the topping before adding the rest, makes it so the entire topping is crisp. A lot of times there is a gooey layer of topping near the fruit, if you try to bake all of the topping at the same time.

1. 3C apples, 2C mangoes, 1C cranberries. I like to use maple sugar in this one, but maple sugar is SUPER expensive. I only have it, because my parents bought me some as a Christmas present! When I don't have maple sugar, white, or brown sugar works great!
2. 6C apples! All apples makes a delicious Fall crisp! For this one, I add 1tsp cinnamon to the filling, and 1/2tsp to the topping. I also like to add 1/2C ground walnuts to the topping, if I have them. Brown sugar works sinfully well in this apple filling!
3. 4C peaches, 2C apples. Peaches and apples together make a great crisp. If you have a lot of peaches (Like in the Summer!) just use 6C of peaches and omit the apples!
4. 2C blueberries, 1C strawberries, 1C mango, 2C blackberries. This is one of my very favorite Summer crisps. I make it in July and August, when the berries are about as cheap as they will ever get. Sometimes, I splurge on frozen berries, just so I can make this! Mango adds a delicious tropical sweetness. It's better to just use white, granulated sugar in this filling.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weekly menu plan!

This week I had extra money to spend on groceries, so there will be some extra food in my menu plan!

Tuna salad sandwiches
Oven fries
Avocado, tomato, cucumber salad

Bean soup with turkey bacon
Beer bread
Chocolate chip cookies

Leftover bean soup
Leftover bread
Tomato, cucumber, avocado salad

Lentil chili
Homemade corn chips

Turkey bacon

Garlic bread
Cucumber, tomato salad
Apple, Mango, Cranberry crisp


Most of the extra food I bought was: Yogurt, chocolate chips, turkey bacon, and granola bars! I usually make my own granola bars, but I had 7 $1 off coupons, and the bars were on sale! I ended up only paying $.35 per box. I had 5 $1 off yogurt coupons that let me get 40 containers of Yoplait for $15. $15 is a lot of money to spend on yogurt, but those 40 yogurt containers will last us all month! I also bought 4 mangos and an 8 pound bag of oranges.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Having a Food Bank Account

Counting every penny you spend can be a very daunting, depressing task. I know I have so few of those pennies, that I kind of obsess over money. Every time I have to unexpectedly spend some, my stress level winds up a notch higher. I know there are a lot of people in my position. Single parents, people who have been laid off, people with crazy mortgages, medical debt, or people who just were never able to stay ahead, for whatever reason. Here is one of the main things I do to try and quell my obsessive tendencies, and compulsive worry about money:

What is a food bank account? It's a way for me to feel a small sense of security, even when my bank account balance has dwindled down farther than I ever thought possible. It's a partial antidote to the poisonous feelings of helplessness, and despair that a lack of money can cause. A food bank account is just a bunch of food that you've stocked up on! All you need to create your own food bank account is some storage space! My main pantry is in my laundry room. My dad set up some shelves for me in there, but really, you can store food pretty much anywhere you want. I know one woman who keeps non-perishables under her bed! Here is what I keep in my food bank account:

I keep a lot of non-perishables in my food bank account. The main ones I keep are, flour (25Lbs), sugar (10Lbs), rolled oats (10Lbs), grits (15Lbs), shelf stable soymilk (We're lactose intolerant!), cornmeal (5Lbs), dry beans, dry lentils, yeast, sugar, salt, dry milk, canned fruit, canned tuna, canned chicken, cereal,a 25Lb bag of rice, many, many boxes of pasta, preserves I canned last Summer, peanut butter, canned tomatoes (sauce, diced, stewed, crushed), canned corn, canned pumpkin, raisins, and chocolate chips.
With those ingredients, I can make a lot of meals for my family for a long time. I chose those particular items, because we like them, but also because they are all good for us (Okay, except for the sugar and chocolate chips!:P) That food would last us a long time, and it's not like we'd be dining on ramen. I think the only thing anywhere near as stressful as being too broke to buy food, would be having to feed your kids junk, and knowing how it would affect their growth and development for life.

I also stock up on some refrigerated and frozen items. The main frozen ones are: Frozen vegetables (broccoli, green beans, peas, soybeans), Eggo's (for those EXTREMELY lazy days.:P) ground beef, roasts. The refrigerated items are: Eggs, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, corn tortillas, avocados, apples, dates, celery, and carrots.

I buy other stuff too, but these are all of the foods I try to keep around in bulk. Stocking up can take some time. It takes a lot of planning for me to be able to afford everything I want to buy. I have to buy some items one week, and some the next, and then some the next. If I get an unexpected windfall, I'll often use some of it to buy extra food. I saved up $80 in gas money over Christmas break, and I used it to pad my normal grocery budget.

No one should ever have to be stressed out about having enough money to buy food. Unfortunately, many people are in that very predicament. A food bank account can really do a lot to ease stress during tight times. With a food bank account, at least you don't have to worry about being hungry.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Frugal Chicken Pie!

Yesterday I was REALLY in the mood for chicken pot pie, but I didn't want to use up half a pound of butter to make it! Luckily, I remembered an old shepherds pie recipe I used to make a lot, and I used it as a template to come up with something. Here's what I made:

1 can (13 oz) white meat chicken
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
ONE tsp dried minty herb, (like thyme, chervil, marjoram, savory)
1 bay leaf
1C sliced mushrooms, (optional)
1 can chicken broth
1/4C flour
4 or 5 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
3Tbsp butter
2Tbsp milk
1/2C shredded cheese (I like cheddar!)

Heat the chicken broth up to boiling. Add the chicken, carrots, and celery. Return to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender. Remove the chicken and vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Reserve the broth in another bowl. Return the pan to the heat with 1Tbsp butter. Melt the butter, and then add the onions and optional mushrooms, the herbs, and 1/2tsp salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until onions are softened. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Slowly pour in the reserved broth, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add onion mixture to chicken mixture and reserve. Wash out the saucepan.

Place the potatoes in the saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and boil gently until the potatoes are tender. Drain in a colander, reserving 1/2C cooking water. Return the potatoes to the pan, shaking until they look dry. Add the butter and a splash of cooking water. Mash with a potato masher until most of the lumps are gone. Add the milk, and 1/2tsp salt. Beat the potatoes with a wooden spoon, adding enough cooking water to achieve a smooth consistency.

Place the chicken/onion mixture in a greased, 2 quart baking pan. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the top. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the potatoes. Bake @425 for about 25 minutes.

I served this chicken pie with homemade wheat biscuits topped with mango preserves I canned last Summer. For dessert we ate an apple, mango, cranberry fruit crisp. YUM!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Poem (again)

Paul Part II

I walk towards you every day
In my mind I stop, I turn
Keep my awkward thoughts at bay
My blush becomes a trait unlearned

I'm unfettered in my heart
Reaching out to take your hand
And so we'll never be apart
No matter where our feet may stand

Now we always walk together
My mind can see it silver clear
Our hands are intertwined forever
Their former distance not revered

If only I could take that chance
And not be perpetually paralyzed
My real speech a neurotic dance
This dream a realm to be disguised